By: Abel Figueroa (@abel_figgy)
With the hype for Avengers: Infinity War at an all-time high, there has been no better time than now to look back at the 18 films that have been leading up to April 27th. Over the last ten years, Marvel has given us some bon-a-fide classics and a few let downs, but most importantly, they’ve never released a bad movie. That’s why ranking all 18 films is quite a tall task. Being a MCU superfan/fanboy/stan, I couldn’t wait to sit down and rank all these movies. For the sake of context on just how great these movies are, and for how tough some of these decisions were, I’ll be adding a rating for each film that’s listed. So without further ado, here’s a list of the greatest movies to ever grace the movie screen, otherwise known as the MCU.
18. Ironman 2 (2010)
Where to start with this one. So this is honestly the closest that a Marvel movie has ever gotten to being bad. A weak villain and some pretty forced MCU worldbuilding bogged down a sequel that should have been just as good as its predecessor. In hindsight, this movie played it safe and serves fine as a summer blockbuster. But more was expected and Marvel didn’t come through with this second entry into the Iron Man franchise (a trend that you’ll see more of in this list). However, this movie introduced us to Black Widow and War Machine, who’ve proven to be some pretty important figures in the MCU. So props to this movie for that, I guess.
17. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Does anyone remember what happens in this movie? Yeah, neither do I. Not much to say about this one. Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk a couple times and fights a villain that pretty much has the same powers as him which isn’t a bad final fight, but it’s something we’ve seen before. Also, Edward Norton is Banner in this, who’s actually not that bad but let’s be honest, Mark Ruffalo has knocked that role out of the park. Again, this movie isn’t bad but it’s also not the most memorable. If you’re trying to catch up on all the MCU movies ahead of Infinity War, this is one that you can skip out on entirely. That should say enough.
16. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
I remember when Thor was the lame Avenger. This movie captures that era of Thor quite perfectly. The movie takes itself too seriously, has an absolutely trash villain, and fakes out a Loki death which is honestly one of the cheapest moves in the MCU to date. However, this film isn’t without it’s highlights. Anytime Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is on the screen it’s a treat to be had. Also, that final battle with the portals is pretty cool, but where the fuck are the other Avengers if the Earth is in such great danger? Another skippable MCU movie.
15. Thor (2011)
I’d like to preface this entry by stating that the last three movies in this list are pretty lackluster, but going forward each film is good at the very least. The first Thor was a pretty solid entry into the MCU. Still this Shakespearean Thor is way less entertaining than the Thor we got to see in Ragnarok. However, here we get a pretty solid origin story with fantastic visual effects. Great performances from Anthony Hopkins as Odin and Tom Hiddleston as Loki help prop this film up. This movie is worth your time but if you skip out on it you really won’t be missing much.
14. Iron Man 3 (2013)
I actually like this movie quite a bit despite the fact that the fanbase didn’t really take to kindly to it. This movie is pretty fun and has some twists and turns along the way. Robert Downey Jr. is once again a natural in his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Stark dealing with PTSD from The Avengers gave a superhero a very human problem which was incredibly refreshing. Also, who didn’t love seeing all of those bad ass Iron Man suits in the final act of this movie? Mandarin fake out or not, this movie is all good fun and was quite rewatchable. Don’t @ me.
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
This one is a doozy. There’s no excuse for this movie being so low on this list, but Joss Whedon did it, not me. In all honesty, I walked out of the theatre after this movie in utter amazement. I was in awe of how Whedon and Marvel did the impossible in following up one of the best superhero films ever. However, the more I digested this film, the more times that I saw it, and the more I thought about it, this movie was a major let down. Whether it be the forced Hulk/Black Widow relationship, Ultron being such a weak villain (what a waste), or the cringy attempts at comedy, this movie just didn’t live up to the hype. The trailers led us on to believe that we were getting a dark tone and a formidable villain which would have been more than welcome. Instead we got an obscenely loaded plot, shitty jokes, and a robot with an evil plan that would have led you to believe that he was twirling a mustache for the entirety of the film. There’s some great action and awesome fan service moments in this but that can’t really save this movie from being a disappointment. I’m sort of piling on this movie but to be honest it’s okay. It should be illegal to make an Avengers movie that’s just okay though. Yuck.
12. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The first movie in what’s debatably the best superhero trilogy ever gets the franchise off to a strong start. When this movie came out I was kind of bummed that we’d actually be going back in time to the 1940s as my impatient ass couldn’t wait for The Avengers to come out. I also fell asleep the first time I watched it but turns out I missed a pretty good superhero movie. Chris Evans is awesome as Cap and the villain is actually pretty cool as well. This movie is pretty skippable as far as being caught up in the MCU goes, but still is definitely worth your time, especially if you’re a Cap stan like me. The jump in quality from this movie to the next Captain America movie is gigantic (let’s go!!). We’ll talk more about Cap later. Like way later.
11. Ant-Man (2015)
It really didn’t take long for the MCU to bounce back from Age of Ultron. This movie came out two months after and injected a breath of fresh air into the MCU. This movie is fucking hilarious. I can’t imagine a serious Ant-Man movie. Smart play on Marvel’s part to make this a comedic heist film. The casting of Paul Rudd is utter genius and he kills it as Scott Lang. Who would have thought that the dad who did shrooms in Vegas in Knocked Up would make for such a great Marvel hero. Despite not having an interesting villain, this movie lowered the stakes from Ultron and was a great introduction to Hank Pym, Scott Lang, and Hope Pym. Also, the miniature action sequences in this movie were dope.
10. Doctor Strange (2016)
This is where this list gets extremely difficult for me to sort out. It goes without saying that every movie left on this list is either great or absolutely fantastic. To be quite honest it doesn’t feel right to put this movie so low but the competition is that stiff. When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I honestly thought it was going to suck. Who gives a fuck about Doctor Strange in 2016? Man, was I wrong. I didn’t even see this movie in it’s theatrical run. Thankfully it got added to Netflix and I watched it quite recently and was treated to a pleasant surprise. This movie is great. Even though Stephen Strange’s story is pretty similar to Tony Stark’s, Benedict Cumberbatch added a certain charm to Strange that felt like he was born to play the role. That finale is absolutely iconic as well. Won’t spoil it for anyone that hasn’t seen it because I feel like a lot of people skipped out on this one. Don’t play yourself. Go Netflix this one later tonight.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
I wasn’t the biggest fan of this movie after my first watch in the theatre. Only after the second viewing did I really appreciate this film. This is one of the best sequels that the MCU has put out, and this list is proof that that isn’t something that the studio has always done well. This movie is extremely charming, just like the first Guardians. We find out who Peter Quill’s dad really is and we get more out of the Nebula/Gamora sibling rivalry which is great. Trust me I was not expecting for this movie to tug on my heart strings like it did. What an emotional ending. Also, Baby Groot is in this movie. Your favorite movie doesn’t have Baby Groot in it? Can’t relate.
8. Black Panther (2018)
I think it’s safe for me to put this opinion out into the world now. Black Panther is truly a great movie. The characters were absolutely fantastic and the performances were great. Marvel’s best villain yet (Thanos is on his way to claim that title) was in this movie and he absolutely stole the show. However, I think this movie gets way too much credit than what is actually due. This movie doesn’t separate itself from the rest of the movies that the MCU has put out. It feels like a pretty safe entry into the MCU. Safe, yet extremely well done. I honestly would have loved to see more action in this movie as well, but it didn’t necessarily need it. Like I said, this movie is great but the competition is too tall for this movie to challenge. I’m ecstatic for T’Challa’s future in the MCU as he’s due to become the leader of the Avengers once everything is said and done with Infinity War and Avengers 4. Hopefully that means that Marvel will invest way more money in the CGI for Black Panther 2.
7. Iron Man (2008)
The one that started it all. Every movie on this list, Marvel Studios, and all of us fans owe it to this movie because without it we wouldn’t be gearing up to see the Avengers and the Guardians of Galaxy teaming up in the same movie next week. This movie is absolutely fantastic. Had it not been for the impressive run that Marvel has been on during Phase 3, this movie would definitely be in the top 5. This movie also revived Robert Downey Jr.’s career which I’m also thankful for. His portrayal of Tony Stark is nothing short of iconic. An awesome origin story movie with great comedy, what more can we ask for from a Marvel Studios movie?
6. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Just when we thought that we had had enough of Peter Parker doing things in a spider suit, Marvel had to release this gem. This movie did Peter Parker justice. Tom Holland did Peter Parker justice as well. A high school movie masked as a super hero movie, this film is unique as it is entertaining. Not to mention this movie is another hilarious entry into the MCU. I can’t remember any of the comedy in this movie not landing. The villain in this movie is terrifying and is part of the villain renaissance that we’ve seen in recent MCU movies. This movie also has one of the most shocking twists that I’ve seen in a Marvel movie to date. There really isn’t much wrong with this movie like at all. Actually there’s nothing wrong with this movie. I absolutely adore it. Give Marvel all of their properties back so that they can do them justice as they did with Spider-Man in this movie. Also, we are here for a young Aunt May.
5. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Yet another Phase 3 gem, this movie hit the reset button on one of the most iconic members of the Avengers. This movie honestly felt kind of like a soft reboot of the Thor franchise and it paid serious dividends. For starters, Taika Waititi is an incredible and hilarious director. Give him all of the Marvel movies please. Chris Hemsworth was hilarious in this movie, proving that he has the chops to be a star in Hollywood once he’s said and done with Thor. We also see an extension of the friendly rivalry that is Thor vs. Hulk that was established in The Avengers. Hela was a great villain that felt like she really is unstoppable. Truly love the ingenious and risky ending in this movie as well. Reminiscent of Doctor Strange, this film found a very clever way for its heroes to triumph. Ragnarok, is also one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Yeah it felt like the MCU was kind of double dipping in the Guardians successes, but who can complain about that because it seriously works. Love this movie. Love Thor’s haircut. Love Korg. Forever.
4. The Avengers (2012)
This movie is a classic. Plain and simple. Joss Whedon couldn’t have done a better job with handling the MCU’s first crossover event. Loki was the first truly great villain in the MCU and it felt like the Avengers had an actual reason to assemble. The crossover felt natural (take notes DC). Nothing was forced. The comedy landed, the action was iconic, we got plenty, and I mean PLENTY, of fan service. There’s really not much else to say about this movie. If someone were to create a perfect blockbuster movie in a laboratory, this movie would probably come out.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Marvel Studios did THAT. They made a movie with a bunch of D-list superheroes, a talking racoon, and a sentient tree work. This was definitely a very welcome surprise. This movie just gushes with charm and comedy. Guardians has a pretty forgettable villain with motives that nobody can really even remember but none of that matters. That’s how good this movie is. Filled with classic and iconic moments and some of the funniest comedy that the MCU will ever produce, this movie is an all-timer and a much watch. Also, Groot is in this movie. Your favorite movie doesn’t have Groot in it? Can’t relate. Also I think it’s safe to say that Guardians movies are the most likely to make you shed a tear.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
I fought with myself over these top two movies. It was so hard to pick. However, both are deserving of their spot on this list. The Russo Brothers first crack at the MCU and they delivered the MCU’s best film. This movie is a political thriller through and through. It’s a shame but I feel like this movie does not get enough appreciation because it belongs in the MCU. This movie could, just like a lot of the other films on this list, standalone as a truly incredible movie. It’s so well written with amazing action and twists and turns that will live on in MCU legend. This movie is definitely an underrated and underappreciated gem. This was the movie that made Captain America an absolute badass. Have you seen his kicks in this movie? Just great stuff. The Winter Soldier was a truly great villain and the highway fight is one of the best action set pieces that the MCU has given us. The elevator scene is in this movie! Case closed. What a film. If you don’t remember how great this movie is, sit your ass down and turn it on as soon as possible.
1. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
This is why we go to the movie theatres. This movie did everything right. At first glance, this movie should have been impossible to pull off. This movie did way more than pull it off. This is the crown jewel of the MCU. This movie was tasked with pitting the Avengers against one another, and with introducing Spider-Man and Black Panther all at once. Civil War did it with grace. Where do I even begin with the airport battle. I can’t wait to see if Infinity War has a sequence that one-ups the airport scene (it probably will). This movie posited some real-life issues that somehow added realism to a universe that houses aliens and magic and talking trees. Everything in this movie is fantastic: the writing, the action, the dialogue. That final battle between Cap/Bucky and Iron Man left me speechless. Definitely Marvel’s shining achievement. This one did it better than the rest. It’s also on Netflix so I’ll probably watch it for the tenth time tonight. Here’s to the Russo Brothers! Hope they knock it out of the park with Infinity War. I don’t think anyone doubts that they will.